A Trip to Chateau Montelena
I always forget how big Napa Valley is, and it happened again yesterday when I decided to take a little drive up to Chateau Montelena to take a photo for an article I was writing. Yeah, it's in Calistoga which is a solid 45 minutes further north. Luckily, it is a beautiful drive and it's always a joy to see the grapevines in their "crazy hair" stage.
Eventually we arrived at what is possibly the most stunning vineyard I've seen in America. Off Tubbs Lane there is a non-descript little driveway with a sign one could easily miss. The trees around the buildings are tall and mercifully shady on a 110 degree day.
Once out of the car we caught a glimpse of the iconic structure immortalized in the movie Bottle Shock which recounts the Judgement of Paris in which Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay defeated French competitors in a blind tasting. (An American Cabernet Sauvignon won as well: Stag's Leap's 1973 vintage)
I've sold Chateau Montelena wines in the past but never really had an opportunity to try them so, after such a long drive I decided I should investigate. Happily I had the opportunity to try the Estate Riesling which is very crisp and Alsatian in style, meaning it is not sweet or overly fruity, but more acidic and suitable for food pairing. The Chardonnay is described in the tasting room as Burgundian in style- which means it is not oaky or buttery (California style). The Chardonnay is more acidic than many, but is undeniably rich. The balance is where it's at with this wine.
In the red category we tried the 2010 Estate Zinfandel (which was incredible- I bought a bottle) the 2010 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2009 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Of course, they were all fab and very much worth the drive. The tasting room staff was not stuffy at all and make it feel like you're stepping back in time to an era before gigantic scores and snobbery. They're proud of the winery's successes but the staff is gracious and explain it all so that the beginner and the well-versed are equally comfortable.